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Creating your export plan

If you're thinking about exporting in your business, you'll need to create an export plan to make sure you know it's the right move for your business.

You will learn

  • What to include in your export plan
  • How to define your export ambitions
  • Where you can go for export funding and advice

Before your drive right in to exporting, you’ll need to make sure you have an export plan to help focus your attention and help you succeed. After you’ve done your initial research and know that you’ve got a viable market somewhere else in the world, you’ll need to sit down and work out how you’re going to get your product to that place.

There are lots of little bits that need to go into your export plan, but you’ll have had the practise with some of them when you were writing your business plan. It should outline your objectives, strategies and preparations and can give you an understanding of the risks and benefits that you’ll be facing when you start exporting. This article will take you through the different elements that you should include to help give you the best chance of export success.

Benefits of selling abroad

You wouldn’t have considered exporting if you didn’t think that it had some large benefits to your business. Lots of your motives will be unique to you, so spend some time putting pen to paper or fingers to keys to write them down for future reference. You’ll likely be doing it to make larger profits, become more competitive and expand your market, but dig deeper and think about things more specific to your business.

Your unique selling points and competitive edge

You already know what makes you different, but getting it down on paper consolidates it in your mind and helps you feel confident when moments of doubt creep in. Your uniqueness in the UK market can transfer over into your new market, and increasing your market by going global is going to increase your competitiveness as a business. If you increase your profits, you can then increase the amount available to you for new product development and bigger marketing campaigns.


Do you need to modify your product?

What passes regulations in the UK might not qualify in your new country. Particularly with food, natural products and toys, European and global markets have different standards for their product. Think about the chlorinated chicken wash debate that came out from Brexit talks, it’s a perfectly accepted process in America, but EU markets won’t accept products treated in this way. Make sure that you check with the local standards agency that your product will be accepted into their market as it is, or whether you’ll need to make a few changes to meet UK and their regulations.

Your target market

You’ve done your research so you know exactly who you’ll be selling to in your new market, but make sure you write it down in your export plan. Plans aren’t set in stone and should be amended as you progress, but having a clear idea of who you want to market to and why you’ve chosen them can be really helpful. It can be really useful to have your market clearly defined with sound reasoning, especially if you’re pitching for funding, as it will show potential investors that you’ve got well-reasoned justifications for your choices.

Routes to market

How are you intending to get your product to your customers? You’ll need to define your routes to market in your export plan, so it’s clear to you, your staff, or anyone else who accesses your plan whether you’ll be using an eCommerce site, overseas distributor, partnering up, or opening a store.

In this part of your export plan, you could also include how you’ll identify your overseas partners if you’re going to have any. How will you find them and set out how you’ll maintain and develop your relationships when you could be thousands of miles apart.

Outline your operations

You’ll need to have a good understanding of all the tasks you’ll need to complete to actually get your product to your customers. You’ll need to think about what your shipping methods going to be, how will you distribute your products, and what customs regulations, licenses and paperwork will you need to get your product out of the UK.

Here, you might also need to think about your intellectual property and how you can protect it when you go global. Even if you’ve got intellectual property protection for your products in the UK, you’ll need to make sure you protect yourself in your new market. Protection is area specific, unless you get patented protection for EU countries or for places that have signed up to the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Take a look at our tips for protecting your assets globally here.

Your marketing plan

What’s your plan going to be to attract customers in your new market? Set down in your export plan what your campaigns are going to be, and what your budget will be for running them. You’ll need to get to know your new market so you can familiarise yourself with what adverts work well there, as cultural differences might come into play. What works in the UK might not work in your new market, so it’s probably a good idea to speak with a local expert to double check the viability of your marketing ideas before you spend money and time running it.

Your finances

A regular business plan will include an overview of your finances, including your financial forecasting, income and expenditure, and your export plan should be no different. You’ll need to clarify how you plan to finance your export and outline the resources that you’re going to need to make it successful and what they’re likely to cost.

For help with this, you can get free export finance guidance from UK Export Finance by filling out this form, or get in touch with one of the How’s Business support team to see what funding support your business could be eligible for.

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Written by:

Beth Ellin

How's Business content writer

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